The judiciary should uphold free speech!


Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) appointed a new general manager for the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) under Mr. Mark Lapid. He was in Cebu to seek the assistance of Gov. Gwen Garcia for the recovery of the numerous properties that the PTA used to own or operate before the EDSA Revolt removed the Marcos dictatorship. I’m glad that the PTA GM is interested in recovering these properties because the previous GM really didn’t care.

How serious is Mr. Mark Lapid in his quest? Or is he merely sniffing around for some juicy deals that could be hatched; after all, he’s got only after 2010 in this job? Pardon me for being cynical, but we’ve seen how badly mishandled the PTA is, from the very time that they took over the Kang-Irag Golf Course in the late 80s to the time that they “gave” this facility to Mr. Jose Go of Ever Gotesco, who destroyed that perfectly playable Gary Player-designed golf course in order to build a new one purportedly designed by Nick Price.

I remember that we pleaded with the Gotesco people to destroy only the first nine holes, then when they finish with the new one, they can destroy the rest. But no one listened. This blotched deal was totally disadvantageous to the government. We once had a playable 18-hole golf course. It was unfinished when PTA took over, but what was really lacking was a good club house because there was only a Nipa Hut Clubhouse there at that time and perhaps a cemented cart path. But all this is gone thanks to Mr. Jose Go.

To add salt to this injury, I understand that this case is languishing in the sala of a Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge. Why haven’t this judge made any decisions on this case after ten long years?

Because this case is still in court, many media persons do not even want to write or discuss this issue for fear of having a case of subjudice filed against them. But we’re celebrating Press Freedom this week and the greater calling for us in the media is to seek out the truth about this issue. In fact, we should implore the members of the Judiciary to help us in our advocacy and fight for our basic right to Freedom of Speech. Alas, it is unfortunate that issues like subjudice only exacerbate our cause. The Judiciary should support free speech, not curtail or silence journalists!

* * *

These are indeed busy days for the Cebu media as we celebrate the 14th Press Freedom Week. Due to the frenzy of activities, we have to rush our stories so we could attend the many forums held at the Fernan Press Center. Thankfully, because of so many news stories, we are able to cope up.

 Last Monday we joined the forum entitled, “Media and Technology” with Mr. Mel Velasco Velarde CEO of Next Mobile, Inc. talking about “The New Wide World of Media” while Ms. Glenda Gloria Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ABS-CBN’s News Channel talked about “Engaging the Media with New Technology”. This was emceed by Ms. Michelle So, Executive Editor of SunStar and sponsored by the Canadian Government and Manila Water.

The forum was attended mostly by Mass Communication students from various schools. Even old and seasoned journalists like me learned a thing or two from our speakers. As we’ve said before, traditional news outfits - newspapers, tv or radio - may face a stiff competition from the Internet to the point that someday, the Citizen Journalist might just replace us mainstream journalists. When that happens, that’s the time I will look at other options on the table.

Yet despite the numerous blogs in existence today, the problem with the Internet is that, it is so free, anyone can say anything about anyone, even nasty libelous statements. A case in point is an article purportedly written by the famous New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd about how Barrack Obama used the Internet to get his campaign funds, that he was getting it from foreign countries. That article sounded so legitimate, I forwarded it to friends, until someone alerted me that that article was not written by Maureen Dowd. Someone merely cut and paste her name on the article, thus misleading people into believing that she wrote the article.

So the message we’re sending you is crystal clear, anyone can write anything in the Internet, even libelous items which may not be traceable. Anyone can destroy one’s reputation without getting penalized for such a dastardly act. Hence, the future still needs the traditional news media facilities that could verify anything written in the Internet. This is why credibility is paramount when it comes to us journalists.











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